The Daily Judge
© 2005 Burton Randall Hanson
             Archives - 05.28.2005 - 06.13.2005
"All the news that gives judges and lawyers fits."
BurtLaw's Daily Judge is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, this is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert you to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things that have interested us and that may interest you. In linking to another site or source, we don't mean either to suggest we necessarily agree with views or ideas expressed there or to attest to the accuracy of facts set forth there.

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About Burton Hanson. Burton Hanson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Minnesota. He worked one year as Hennepin County District Court Special Term (Civil) Law Clerk, two years as law clerk for the late Justice C. Donald Peterson of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and over 26 years as Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was a nonpartisan candidate for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the general election in November 2000 and a liberal anti-war candidate for Congress in the Republican primary in the Minnesota Third District in September 2004. He was one of the first law bloggers (blawgers). He began planning his first blog, BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else in 1999 but delayed starting it until after the 2000 general election. His campaign website, the no-longer extant VoteHans.Com, contained a personal campaign weblog, possibly the first such use of a weblog or blog. In 2004 he also used the personal blog format in his primary campaign for Congress. That site, BurtonHanson.Com, has morphed into a personal political opinion blog and also contains the archives of his 2004 campaign web pages and blog postings.

    Great moments in U.S. Supreme Court appointments history. "Even if [Judge Carswell] is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they -- a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters, and stuff like that there." Sen. Roman Hruska (R-Nebraska), defending, in 1970, failed Nixon-nominee, Judge G. Harold Carswell, against criticism that he was "mediocre."

    Bahrain's crown prince names new court chief. "Shaikh Daij bin Khalifa Al Khalifa has been appointed as Crown Prince's Court head. The appointment was made in an edict issued by Crown Prince and BDF Commander-in-Chief Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa yesterday...." More (Gulf Daily News 06.13.2005). Memo. "Memo from #43 to KR: Can't we do it this way -- just issue an edict saying we edictitate Nino as Chief and Orrin or Tom or Pat as assoshiajudge?"

    More on supreme court judge who decided not to retire. The other day we linked to a story saying Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver had changed her mind about retiring. More. She's a Republican & her retirement would mean the Democrat governor, Jennifer Granholm, would get to name her replacement. Today's Detroit Free Press, in a story by Brian Dickerson, says that while some GOP party leaders were irked at her move, "her Republican Supreme Court colleagues were mostly relieved, reckoning that the appointment of any reasonably collegial Democrat would be an improvement over life with the aloof and increasingly obstreperous Weaver." Apparently Michigan is one of those states in which the justices decide who is chief, because the story says that "Weaver's relations with the other Republican justices have been strained since 2001, when they ousted her as chief justice and named a more junior Republican, Justice Maura Corrigan, to replace her." The story adds that "In the years since [her ouster as chief], Weaver has spent even more of her time in Traverse City, where she maintains chambers near her Glen Arbor home, visiting the court's Lansing headquarters only for oral arguments and the weekly conference in which justices vote on cases." More (Detroit Free Press 06.13.2005). Comment. I'm betting her Republican colleagues were surprised when she un-retired. That's okay by me. Despite what you've heard about the crucial importance of colleageality on a supreme court, creative conflict is even more essential. An appellate court on which everyone agrees with everyone else is a dead appellate court. Paraphrasing what I've said elsewhere, a court that is calcified and only about stability and collegiality is as bad as a court that tends to be too fluid and rambunctious and devoid of stabilizing forces.

    South Dakota judge talks tough about security. "Last week, the new presiding judge for [Lincoln] county said he might move hearings [from Canton, S.D.] to Sioux Falls if courthouse security isn't improved. 'If I feel court personnel and witnesses are in jeopardy, I will suspend hearings,' said Circuit Judge Brad Zell. Commission Chairman Jim Schmidt said security in the 106-year-old courthouse needs to be addressed. 'We're still living like this is Mayberry RFD,' he said...." More (Aberdeen American News 06.12.2005). Comment. The Canton, S.D. website says of Canton:

Imagine the ideal American city. It would be a people-focused community, endowed with abundant natural beauty, a relaxing river and extensive recreational opportunities. Its climate would be temperate, yet seasonal. Its neighborhoods would be quiet, well maintained and tastefully landscaped by thoughtful and hospitable residents.  Its schools would be first-rate in education and sports. Its economy would be thriving, diversified and resilient. Its government would be fiscally conservative and socially and culturally attuned. It would be a safe haven where families could grow and prosper. It would be Canton, South Dakota.

If this is true, it seems to me that Canton is Mayberry RFD. Doesn't Barney Fife do his job just fine?

    Your tax dollars at work. "Monday's Court Docket. Another slow news day at the courthouse...various conferences and hearings, but no trials, no sentencings and no guilty pleas in Kansas City, Springfield or Jefferson City...." From MediaBlog - an online press briefing from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Missouri maintained by "Don Ledford, Public Affairs Officer." Mr. Ledford states: "Consider this an online press briefing, sort of a virtual courthouse steps, where reporters and editors can find more information they need to make coverage decisions...." Today's "press briefing" includes this headline: "Most Americans support the Patriot Act," with a link to an ABC news story and to a site called Preserving Life and Liberty. Comment. Good idea, but do courts and U.S. Attorneys really need to hire public information officers -- that is, full-time p.r. people? I would think one of the possibly underworked law clerks or secretaries at the court, rather than an employee of the U.S. Attorney, could maintain such a blog in his or her spare time at no additional cost to the court (or the taxpayers). Or maybe a retired lawyer or group of retired lawyers could do it pro bono.

    Judge calls recess to deal with chewing gum crisis. "A court spokesman said: 'People attending the trials were given three warnings by which they were being asked to stop chewing gum but with no result. On the contrary some of them began making gum balloons in front of the judges.'" More (Ananova 06.13.2005). Comment. While we're on the subject of chewing gum and its manifold relationship with the judicial process, we can't help saying that if judges want to chew gum, they ought to chew Black Jack licorice-flavored chewing gum. Black Jack is a very judge-appropriate chewing gum, coming in the distinctive courtly-blue wrapper with judicial-black logo and may be bought in bulk by the court administrator or judicial accommodations officer at court-budget-friendly prices. If the court budget provides chewing gum to jurors also -- e.g., as a substitute for the more-expensive coffee -- we recommend the court buy the much-cheaper three-sticks-for-a-penny Chum Gum that is more appropriate to their status vis-a-vis the judges.

    Courts are going to the dogs. "Around the country, the legal community is starting to pay serious attention to cases involving pets: pet trusts, veterinarian-malpractice cases and suits that push to expand emotional damages so they cover a pet's death or injury. 'There is more happening since the year 2000 than in the previous century ... A whole convergence of different energies are creating this fantastic, really, volcano of change,' said Carolyn Matlack, president of Animal Legal Reports Services, which tracks lawsuits and legislation. 'The courts are struggling to figure out how to create justice.'" More (Seattle Times 06.12.2005). And see, BurtLaw's Law and Animals, Lady Mathilda's Law and Dogs, and About Mathilda.

    Scorpions in a bottle? Trinidad and Tobago's chief justice, Sat Sharma, is in Ireland & it seems that normally the President, whose task it is to appoint an acting chief in such situation, would appoint the judge on the court with the most seniority, in this case a fellow named Roger Hamel-Smith. But the President bypassed Hamel-Smith and appointed Margot Warner, the third in command as acting chief, an act possibly having something to do with the fact that last time he was acting chief, Hamel-Smith gave advice to the attorney general regarding an impeachment inquiry of Sat Sharma. Then six members of the court, including Hamel-Smith and Warner, asked for and obtained a meeting with the President to express their concerns. And so it goes, reminding one, fairly or unfairly, of Justice Holmes' reference to the members of the U.S. Supreme Court as "nine scorpions in a bottle." More (Trinidad Express 06.12.2005). Further links.

    Has Rehnquist court's federalism boomlet fizzled? "A hallmark of the Rehnquist Court has been a re-examination of the country's most basic constitutional arrangements, resulting in decisions that demanded a new respect for the sovereignty of the states and placed corresponding restrictions on the powers of Congress...." But, argues Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times, the "boomlet" has, in the words of one expert she quotes, "fizzled," a conclusion based on the 6-3 breakdown of the justices in the medicinal marijuana case, Gonzales v. Raich, decided last week. More (NYTimes 06.12.2005). Comment. I've thought all along that application of the New Federalism approach of Rehnquist & the four who typically have joined him has depended, to a great extent, on whose ox is being gored by the federal policy in question. When application of the federal law impinges on a state's liberal approach to marijuana regulation or suicide, then the "old" New Deal federalism applies & the federal policy trumps state policy. Judicial philosophy, whether that of Bill Rehnquist or Bill Brennan, ain't the same thing as philosopher's philosophy. It's more like Machiavellian political philosophy.

    Judicial thinking around the world. If one reads the world press, as I do, one sees often that three of the main topics relating to judges and courts in diverse societies around the world these days are a) judicial independence, b) judicial accountability and transparency, and c) judicial delay. The title of a lecture given by senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, Fali S Nariman, "Indian Judicature, Appointments and Disappointments, Independence and Accountability, Vision, Mission And Powers," exemplifies this. More (New India Press 06.12.2005). And see, Judicial council to ensure judges' accountability (New India Press 06.12.2005). There is a largely-unnoticed refreshing ferment in thinking along these lines even in places as diverse as Egypt, China, India, South Africa, and South Korea.

    Judicial retention elections vs. judicial selection elections. One of the reasons many judges in states like Minnesota, with judges subject to opposing candidates come election time, are wary of changing to the so-called Missouri plan, with judicial retention elections, is that some anti-judges group might be able to rev up the public to simply vote no in all retention elections. The thought is that it's easier to get people to vote no on a judge than to get them to vote for a specific opponent of a sitting judge. Exemplifying the "just vote no" thinking is a letter to the editor in an Arizona which states: "Most citizens know nothing about judges other than to see sentences handed down that we might question. A little insight into those judges would be very enlightening. In the meanwhile, being cynical, I simply vote 'no' on each and every one of these people when asked on a ballot if they should be retained." More (AZ Republic 06.12.2005).

    State supreme court scandal's own 'Deep Throat.' "One ['Deep Throat'-type source] brought me a document revealing that some justices were conversing improperly with a utility lawyer in a case involving potentially millions of dollars in higher monthly bills, while the decision was pending. That led to the further disclosure that the lawyer had also secretly written a draft opinion that one justice had turned into the court's proposed decision before some of the research aides -- not any of the justices, mind you -- took alarm...." More (Martin Dyckman, St. Petersburg Times 06.12.2005).

    A member of Congress on Supreme Court? It appears that "GOP Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas are being talked up by some conservatives as possible nominees for the high court." But "[c]hoosing a conservative senator might be attractive because of 'senatorial courtesy' -- the idea that senators will not be overly harsh to one of their own during the confirmation process. Of course, senatorial courtesy is never a guarantee...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 06.11.2005). Comment. Why not include Tom DeLay on the list and, say, Pat Robertson? It's true DeLay, unlike Robertson (Yale Law, no less), isn't a lawyer, but Clean Gene McCarthy said on a number of occasions that if he were elected President he might consider appointing a nonlawyer to the Court. "The thing is, George, with DeLay on the Court we'd never need to worry about him changing his stripes once he got lifetime tenure." A compromise nominee? Why not Roy Moore, the "Ten Commandments Judge." For more on Moore, go to BurtLaw's Court Gazing IV & scroll down to "7-day cruise with the chief -- as low as $1,468!"

    Supreme Court millionaires, world travelers. "The annual disclosures, released Friday, painted a picture of a prosperous group on the nation's highest court, with at least six of the nine justices holding more than $1 million in assets: Justices O'Connor, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens...." More (NY Times 06.11.2005). Comment. The mystery is why they all aren't millionaires, at least on paper, given how residential and farm real estate values have been skyrocketing & given their high salaries and other perks of office, including gold-plated pensions. If I were doing investigative reporting, I'd focus on the whys & why-nots.... BTW, what happened to the huge advance Thomas reportedly got for his memoirs?

    Judge has second thoughts about retiring. "Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver has changed her mind about leaving the court in October, issuing a statement Friday saying that she has 'delayed to a yet-to-be-determined time my departure....'" More (Detroit Free Press 06.11.2005). Comment. I sorta wish Rehnquist would  decide against retiring & thereby throw a wrench into Bush's plans to stir up his base by making a controversial appointment.

    AZ justices hire public relations firm. "Arizona’s judges need to do a better job of explaining what they do or risk losing their independence, the new chief justice of the state Supreme Court [Ruth McGregor] said Friday...The justices already took one step, retaining a public relations firm to help get that message out...." More (East Valley Tribune 06.11.2005). Comment. Going p.r. route has been a trend among state supreme courts for a decade or longer. Only the courts typically don't hire a p.r. firm, they hire a "public information officer." They also go on spring & fall "tours" outstate, hold court in high schools, read books to kids in school (a la Bush on 09.11), etc. I sorta long for the days when judges didn't mind their anonymity, read the records themselves, didn't rely on law clerks, wrote their own opinions, called them as they saw them without fear of or anticipation of the political or personal consequences. As Justice Frankfurter once said, "Weak characters ought not to be judges."

    Newspaper sues to unseal filings in judicial bribery case. "The Sun Herald is asking the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to order a federal court trial judge to open files sealed in [the Mississippi] judicial bribery case being tried in Jackson...." More (South Mississippi Sun Herald 06.11.2005). Comment. Sunshine is generally better than darkness on matters of public interest occurring in a public forum.

    Judicial elections and defamation law. "A judge ruled Friday that former [Illinois] appellate court justice Gordon Maag had ample reason to be appalled but not a reason to file a [$110 million] defamation lawsuit in connection with his failed retention campaign in November....The defamation suit was filed in regard to a campaign flier mailed [by opposition groups] to voters in the days before the Nov. 2 election that included phrases such as, 'In Southern Illinois, the wheels of justice have ground to a screeching halt,' and 'Gordon Maag’s record on crime: embarrassing and dangerous.' The suit cited the groups’ opposition to Maag’s retention on the appellate bench, but they also opposed him in his concurrent [and unsuccessful] run last year for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court...." More (The Telegraph 06.11.2005). Comment. We ought not have a different set of principles regarding what judicial candidates, as opposed to other candidates, may say, or what others may say about them. The First Amendment is the First Amendment is the.... Thus, the decision appears correct. There are grave problems with the way all elections, not just judicial elections, are conducted, starting with a public that seems to feel citizenship ought to be easy, candidates who don't respect the intelligence of the public, and news media that are lazy & leave the political informing of the public to TV commercials. No wonder campaigns have become such sad spectacles.

    Retired judge censured in Arkansas. "A judicial commission in a 6-3 vote Friday censured former Jefferson County Circuit Judge Fred D. Davis III and found him unqualified to seek or hold judicial office in the future. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, in a five page decision, said Davis violated several judicial rules, including being convicted of an offense punishable as a felony, commission of conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, and conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice...." More (Arkansas News 06.11.2005).

    Say it isn't so: artist painting mural on exterior courthouse wall. "The front of the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach is exploding with color. Miami Beach artist Andrew Reid is creating a mural on 3,300 square feet of concrete 'canvas' -- the exterior south walls of the courthouse -- using 80 gallons of polymer acrylic paint. It’s one of three courthouse projects coordinated by Palm Beach County’s Art in Public Places program and funded by a 1999 Cultural and Recreation Facilities bond...." More (Boca Raton News 06.11.2005). Comment. Maybe we can take the idea a step further & sell the naming rights to all our public buildings, even courthouses, to corporations & thus help keep our politicians' no-new-taxes pledges, fund pay raises for judges, etc. And maybe we can turn the courthouse walls into Coke or Pepsi billboards.

    Defendant admits to bribing judge. "Norman Bowley, the former Bail Bonds Unlimited employee who was caught on secret videotape handing state District Judge Alan Green an envelope of $5,000 in cash in the judge's private chambers, confessed Thursday to bribing Green in return for favors for the Gretna firm. Bowley's admission, just 11 days before he and Green were to stand trial in the Jefferson Parish courthouse corruption case, makes him the 13th conspirator to plead guilty in the federal probe...." More (Times-Picayune 06.10.2005). Comment. I am always amazed that anyone would try bribe a judge and doubly amazed that any judge would accept a bribe. And yet it happens.... It is a good thing that Madison & Co. were so well-versed in the fallibility of Man & of human institutions & thus created the complex system of multiple checks & balances. Any attempt to do away with any of those checks -- e.g., the filibuster -- ought to be met initially with the greatest of skepticism. They protect all of us from the weaknesses of each other.

    A judge named 'Legal.' "Judge Hubert Legal leads a five-member panel at the 25-member Court of First Instance that is reviewing Microsoft's appeal from a March 2004 European Commission decision, which found the software giant abused its dominant position to crush rivals...." Judge Legal, who believes the Court is not just reviewing expert decisions as to competitiveness but substituting its judgment for them, places some of the blame on young assistants (law clerks?) who speak the Court's language of deliberation, French, better than the judges. He refers to these assistants as "young ayatollahs" of free enterprise. More (ZD Net News 06.10.2005).

    Chief justice post as stepping stone to presidency? "Bolivia's Supreme Court chief, Eduardo Rodríguez, became president of the beleaguered country late Thursday after Congress accepted outgoing President Carlos Mesa's resignation and the first two officials in the line of succession stepped aside...The development could defuse the political crisis that had caused Mesa to warn that the country could plunge into civil war...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 06.10.2005). Comment. In the U.S., selecting the person to be chief justice could plunge the country into civil war.

    Judicial activism gone hog wild? "A judge on Thursday ordered a Central Indiana hog farm to immediately take steps to correct a manure lagoon brimming with so much excrement it is at risk of overflowing...." More (Indianapolis Star 06.10.2055). Comment. Slopes, you know, are often covered with a slippery substance, and when one stops sliding, he may find he has plopped into a deep, dark malodorous lagoon. Next thing you know, the lagoon will overflow and, God forbid, courts will be telling us what the Bill of Rights means.

    And now judges are cutting taxes? "A Minnesota Supreme Court ruling Thursday could put another $117 million challenge in the state's ongoing budget battle. The court, upholding two lower court decisions, clears the way for a Hutchinson computer company to avoid paying taxes on income generated by foreign subsidiaries...." More (Minneapolis Star-Tribune 06.10.2005).

    Judges soon will be deciding who wins Super Bowl? "The Oakland Raiders' won a minor victory Wednesday in their long-standing conspiracy lawsuit claiming the NFL sabotaged the team's effort to build a stadium at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles. An appellate court's February decision dismissing those allegations fell under scrutiny Wednesday when the California Supreme Court agreed to review whether a lower court properly dismissed the team's case...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 06.10.2005).

    Anti-Gay governor appoints pal to supreme court. "Harold Melton, chief legal advisor to [Georgia] Gov. Sonny Perdue, was appointed to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, joining a panel that is expected to decide if the state’s recently passed ban on gay marriage is constitutional...." More (SoVo 06.10.2005). Comment. In Georgia, as in so many states, it is funny how often the governor's legal adviser or the head of the governor's judicial appointments commission or someone who helped the governor get elected turns out to be the "best" person when a supreme court vacancy develops. Without focusing on the current governor, it is fair to say that Minnesota, my state, is one such state, if the current membership of the court and past membership are any indicators. If you don't believe that the practice is common elsewhere, consider the next item, also posted today:

    Ky. governor appoints his general counsel to court. "Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced Friday he was appointing his general counsel, John Roach, as a state Supreme Court justice for the fifth district...." More (WKYT 27 06.10.2005).

    Another judge targeted? "A Pulaski County man serving time for trying to hire someone to kill his son was charged yesterday with plotting to kill a federal judge. Chalmer 'Chuck' Hayes is the second 70-year-old inmate in the past two months charged with plotting to kill an employee of the federal government while behind bars in a Lexington federal prison...." More (Lexington Herald-Leader 06.10.2005).

    Wackiest headline of week? The headline, of a column by Bill Press in World Net Daily, reads: "Supreme Court sends federal agents to prey on sick," referring to the medicinal marijuana case, Gonzales v. Raich, decided by a 6-3 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week. More (WorldNewsDaily 06.10.2005). Comment. Whatever one's views on our drug laws and/or principles of federalism as they relate to drug laws -- as a political matter, I think the laws are way too harsh and I think the feds ought to lay off the states that are attempting to allow medicinal use of marijuana -- and whatever one thinks of the Court's decision of the legal issues presented, the Court did not "send federal agents to prey on [the] sick." That is merely a possible result of the Court's decision....

    Most-cited law review is... "There are thousands of English law journals in the world on topics ranging from international property law to environmental law to human rights law, but the single most cited law journal in the English language is the [University of Chicago] Law School’s Supreme Court Review. That is according to the Most-Cited Legal Periodicals List published by the Washington and Lee University School of Law...." More (U. Chi. Chronicle 06.09.2005). Comment. If accurate, this surprises me. It's not that great a law review. I wouldn't rate it in my "Top Ten." Maybe the name gives its articles an edge.

    Courthouse groupies urge Jackson acquittal. "Strolling down the street outside the courthouse is like touring the United Nations. Next to the Brits are women from Poland. A contingent of Germans from Frankfurt and Stuttgart is down the way. A group of Japanese women gathers. A woman from Oslo walks around with a Norwegian flag draped about her. There are women from Spain, a man from Amsterdam dressed like Jackson, plus a Jackson look-alike who came from Germany...." More (USA Today 06.09.2005).

    Courthouse weekend style watch. "Michael Jackson's spokeswoman has blasted critics of her boss' courthouse style, claiming she has been inundated with people raving about the 'Thriller' singer's look...." More (Tact Music 06.10.2005). Comment. But the judge's garb -- oh so somber!

    Those serial pro se litigants. "For years, Utahn Holli Lundahl has flooded the courts with lawsuits full of "fanciful, implausible and bizarre factual assertions." At least one has cost her adversaries more than $1 million to defend. A federal judge in Idaho already has declared her a 'vexatious litigant.' An appeals court in San Francisco, a federal judge in Utah, the Utah Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court each has imposed restrictions on her filings. And now, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has had enough...." More (Salt Lake City Tribune 06.10.2005).

    Judicial sons & daughters. "Retired Common Pleas Judge Edward Rosenberg, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, sat bent yesterday in a wheelchair in an aisle in the spectator's section of a federal courtroom, next to his wife, Hilda. The elderly couple watched in silence, and helplessly, as their 59-year-old son, who last worked as a Philadelphia public-school 'teacher intern,' was sentenced to five years in prison for trying to arrange a sexual encounter, over the Internet, with a 13-year-old girl...." More (Philadelphia Daily News 06.10.2005).

    Judge prohibits uniforms for police watching trial. "Baltimore police officers won't be able to wear their uniforms as they listen to testimony in the coming weeks in the case of a man allegedly connected to the shooting death last July of Officer Brian D. Winder...." More (Baltimore Sun 06.10.2005).

    Courthouse aviary - young kestrels rescued . "Pigeons, sparrows and robins regularly perch in the trees or walk on the lawns outside the Tazewell County Courthouse, or make nests in the courthouse eaves...Dawn Burson, an employee of the Tazewell County State's Attorney's Office, said that around 8 a.m. Wednesday she saw a baby bird that had unfamiliar markings hop onto the steps at the employee entrance on the west side of the courthouse...." More (Pekin Daily Times 06.09.2005).

    First female supreme court justice - Nigeria. "History was made yesterday as the Chief Justice of Nigeria...swore in the first female Supreme Court Justice ...Aloma Mariam Mukhtar...." More (All Africa 06.09.2005).

    Ex-stripper will don robe. "Ex-stripper Diana Hampton will soon have something new to wear -- judicial robes. Hampton was elected to the Municipal Court in Henderson on Tuesday, defeating Michael Miller in a run-off by 176 votes...." More (LA Times 06.09.2005). Comment. And who says you can't trust the voters with electing judges?

    Viewing porn on court's computer may result in judge's firing. "A panel overseeing judicial conduct has recommended that Saline County {Kansas] District Judge George Robertson be removed from his job for viewing Internet pornography on his office computer...." More (Kansas City Star 06.09.2005). Earlier entry. Comment. Readers interested in the related issue of monitoring of judges' computer use at work should read my 2001 entry titled "Foes of monitoring of judges' computer use win first round" at Court Gazing II at BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else.

    Possible Supreme Court nominees. This list (San Francisco Chronicle 06.09.2005) contains the usual suspects. I have a hunch Bush will elevate Scalia to the chief justice spot & pick Theodore Olson as an associate justice - the latter because of the 09.11 connection. Just a hunch. One judge not often mentioned these days who should be mentioned is Judge Alex Kozinski. See link to "Foes of monitoring of judges' computer use win first round" at "Court Gazing" in preceding entry.

    Courthouse closed in Cambridge, Mass. cuz of heat wave & no a/c. "The city's court complex was closed in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, and court sessions were canceled for today because the temperature inside soared to more than 80 degrees. A lack of air conditioning was responsible, court officials said...." More (Boston Globe 06.09.2005). Comment. We know how it goes, having gone without electricity for 36 hours following a 4:00 a.m. lightning storm on 06.08.

    Latest on judicial plagiarism trial. "[L]awyers say their client [Judge Holder] is being framed because he cooperated with a federal investigation into possible Hillsborough County courthouse corruption. If found guilty, Judge Holder could be removed from the bench...." More (Tampa Tribune 06.09.2005). Earlier entry.

    Ghostbusters scan Indiana courthouse. "A ghost tracker says he would lean toward the hypothesis that the Porter County (Ind.) Courthouse is haunted. Mike McDowell will give a full report of the findings by the Ghost Trackers of Northeast Indiana this week, the Munster (Ind.) Times reported...." More (Web India 123 06.08.2005). Comment. We hold as true that the older the courthouse, the more likely it is haunted.

    Singapore remembers Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin. "When a convicted pickpocket stood in front of him, to appeal against his six-month jail sentence, the former CJ turned to the prosecutor and asked: 'If this man could be caught, he was not -- and could not have been -- a professional, could he?'" More (Today Online 06.07.2005). "Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who appointed [him Chief] says Dr Wee...held the judges of both the Supreme and Subordinate courts to a high standard of integrity and competence [and that] this was a confidence factor that encouraged foreign enterprise to invest in Singapore and helped the country's economic growth...." More (Channel News Asia 06.07.2005). Comment. Singapore and Hong Kong were recently said to have the best judicial systems in Asia. Click here.

    Judge finds attorney guilty of criminal contempt. "A criminal defense attorney [Rubin Salter Jr.] was fined $300 after being found guilty of criminal contempt of court...[by] Pima County Superior Court Judge Stephen Villarreal[, who] said Salter was sarcastic toward him during a trial last week. The judge also said Salter refused to sit down after being ordered to do so several times...." More (AZ Central 06.07.2005). Comment. There is something anachronistic and, to my way of thinking, unfair about a judge sitting in judgment on charges the judge himself has brought against a party or attorney or witness or courtroom spectator for things allegedly said or done in the judge's presence in the courtroom. Moreover, I question whether it promotes public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary. Finally, in the case of an attorney, it would seem the judge has a better remedy: file a complaint with the state's board of professional responsibility, which can independently investigate the matter and decide whether to file a complaint.

    Judge entertains Pachyderm Club. "Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon,entertained the Chattanooga Pachyderm Club at the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Monday with humorous stories from his career as a lawyer and judge...." More (Chattanoogan 06.07.2005). Comment. All I can say is, I wish I'd been there....

    Judicial plagiarism inquiry. "A circuit court judge spent Monday defending himself against allegations he plagiarized an academic paper seven years ago...." More (Tampa Tribune 06.07.2005). Background. On Plagiarism, by Judge Richard Posner (The Atlantic Monthly, April 2002). Judicial Plagiarism: It May Be Fair Use but Is It Ethical? by Jaime S. Dursht, Vol. 18 Cardozo L. Rev. 1253 (1996).

    Two Texas judges rebuke two Texas congressmen. "Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, recently suggested the spate of violence against judges might be connected to the judges making political-leaning rulings. He said there could be a cause and effect between judges’ rulings and the increase in violence...." And Rep. Tom DeLay's remarks threatening certain judges with impeachment because of their rulings have been reported widely. Now two Texas judges have stood up to them.... More (Hood County News 06.06.2005).

    Defaming judges with parody? "The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review the Texas Supreme Court's dismissal of a libel suit filed by a Texas judge and district attorney over a satirical news story. The fictional satire, published by the Dallas Observer in November 1999, detailed the arrest, shackling and detention of a 6-year-old because her book report on Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is deemed to contain 'terroristic threats.' The story included fictional quotes attributed to Ponder, Texas, Juvenile Court Judge Darlene Whitten and District Attorney Bruce Isaacks. The story parodied Whitten and Isaacks' involvement in the real-life arrest and five-day detention of a 13-year-old for writing a Halloween story describing the shooting deaths of a teacher and two students...." More (Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press 06.06.2005). In the parody Judge Whitten is quoted as having "told reporters that she took action at the request of school officials, who were alarmed by acts of 'cannibalism, fanaticism, and disorderly conduct' that Cindy wrote about in her report, titled 'Where the Wild Things Are: A Book Report by Cindy Bradley.'" The parody (Texas Justice).

   Other links.
   -  Latest in Miss. judicial bribery trial (Sun-Herald 06.07)
   -  Anthrax scare at courthouse (Denver Post 06.07)

    The lure of judicial retirement - cushy service on commissions? "Acartoon in a leading newspaper a few days back showed an ambitious kid aspiring to become a retired Supreme Court judge. The reason he gave: a retired judge [in India] gets to head commissions. A sardonic comment on the politics of commissions, the cartoon was not off the mark. Several retired judges are sitting on many commissions at the same time, drawing the perks that come with it...." More (Tehelka - India 06.06.2005).

    Should the public vote on U.S. Supreme Court Justices? Richard Davis, a prof at Brigham Young Law School, playing the Devil's advocate, has proposed a number of possible Constitutional amendments that would involve public elections of some or all U.S. Supreme Court Justices, including one in which "The president [w]ould pick several nominees who would be screened by the Senate and put on the ballot, with the top vote-getter ascending to the bench" and one in which "The public [w]ould be asked to vote on a nominee if he or she gets fewer than 60 votes in the Senate, which could encourage the president to seek consensus in his nominations...." More (Salt Lake City Tribune 06.06.2005).

    Profile of judge in Jackson trial. "Unlike some judges of celebrity trials past - Judge Lance Ito, who presided over O. J. Simpson's tortuous 133-day murder trial a decade ago, comes to mind - Judge Melville managed to combine strict adherence to protocol with a light, slightly mocking touch. His targets, almost invariably, were the lawyers battling it out before him...." More (NYTimes 06.06.2005).

    Delay in FLA. Workers compensation hearing delays, that is. And Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a bill to help reduce the delays. "Florida has 32 of these specialized judges statewide, and some legislators thought this would be a good year to hire more. But Bush vetoed $1.6 million that legislators put into the state budget that starts July 1 for 20 additional positions at the state's Office of Compensation Claims. It was enough money to hire about four new judges and their support staff...." More (Sun-Sentinel 06.06.2005).

    Judge in paradise gets scary letter. "Indonesian police are checking a letter containing a 'strong smell' sent to the head of a court on the resort island of Bali that recently jailed an Australian woman on drugs charges...." More (SMH 06.06.2005).

    About the drug laws and the courts in paradise. "Most of the more than 30 people now on death row in Indonesia for drug offenses are foreigners...Critics complain that Indonesia's notoriously corrupt courts have failed to mete out similar harsh justice to members of the security forces allegedly involved in narcotics trafficking. There are also complaints that children of powerful military officers and politicians are rarely punished, let alone put to death, for drug offenses. Indonesia is among 90 countries that impose the death penalty, but data from Amnesty International shows that most of the world's executions are carried out by only a handful of countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US...." More (Laksamana 06.06.2005). Comment. I wouldn't vacation in Bali even if it was an all-expenses-paid, free vacation.

    Fuming judges in Massachusetts. "Three months after the state's top judge trumpeted a new 'judicial enhancement' program to assist poorly performing judges, many in the judiciary are bristling at what they perceive as a humiliating effort to help them do their jobs better. A committee representing the more than 80 Superior Court judges statewide wrote a sharply worded critique of the program three weeks ago...." More (Boston Globe 06.06.2005).

   Other links.
   -  Profile of Judge McConnell (Legal Times 06.06)

    Judicial bribery trial underway. "Were they bribes or campaign contributions? Was a prominent Gulf Coast attorney buying justice or just helping out a few old friends who happen to be judges? Those are just some of the questions presented during the opening week of the bribery trial of millionaire attorney Paul Minor, state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancellor Wes Teel...." More (Sun Herald 06.05.2005). Comment. A trial like this arguably deserves more national coverage than, say, the Michael Jackson trial.

    Judges of Madison County - "Hellhole" reputation thing of past? "In the seasonal Midwest, summer always arrives with a hint of sunny optimism. Here at the Madison County Circuit Court, Judge Daniel Stack is driving ours. Since taking over the court’s asbestos docket last fall, Stack has made good progress in changing the culture of courtroom extortion that made it famous. In the process, he’s bringing a little civil justice back to Edwardsville...." More (Madison County Record 06.05.2005).

    Judicial secretary sues judge who fired her. "Kimberly Ann Keskin alleges that it was sometimes a trial working for [Monroe County] Family Court [J]udge [Dandrea Ruhlmann,] who required her to baby-sit the judge's children and do paperwork for her husband...." More (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle 06.05.2005). For more judicial secretaries in the news, click here.

    Portrait of a judge with nothing to lose but anonymity. "Commenting on Squires's 'see-saw' career, one of his erstwhile colleagues said this week: 'He is one of the finest judges of fact we have ever had. It is not surprising that he was chosen for this case. As a person he is serious, a bit impatient, but humble. I am not sure whether he will be enjoying all this publicity and especially the attention on himself.'" From a profile of Judge Hilary Squire, called out of retirement in South Africa to try "Schabir Shaik, high-flying businessman and accused number one." More (Independent Online 06.05.2005).

    Judges afraid, courthouses as fortresses. "An unprotected head, an exposed neck and the top few inches of a judicial robe: That's all that can be seen of Judge Bruce Petrie as he bunkered down on his bullet-resistant judge's bench, panic button within reach, armed bailiffs nearby, taking on the first case of the day." Judge Petrie is a small-town judge who recently was the target of attempted murder. Threats on the lives of judges are not new but there is a perception that they are increasing. As this long story in the Washington Post today states, more and more what should be "open" courthouses are being turned into protected fortresses:

Once universally accessible, the modern courthouse now features not just the Kevlar-reinforced benches and panic buttons, but camera monitors, walk-through magnetometers, X-ray scanners and, just in case all of those measures fail, "safe" rooms and detailed evacuation plans. There are guides to making courthouses safer ("Are spectator seats solidly built and fastened to the floor?" asks one checklist. "Are public restrooms routinely searched?"), and there are measures to make judges feel safer, including a recent $12 million congressional appropriation for federal judges to install alarm systems in their homes.

The problem is not confined to the U.S. See, Security at District Courts to be beefed up (Chandigarh Newsline - Express India 06.04.2005).

    Chief wants end to profitable Mayor's Courts. "The Midvale Mayor’s Court, presided over by Mayor Vera Wilson, and those like it would no longer exist if Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the Ohio Supreme Court had his way. Ohio and Louisiana are the only two states that allow mayors to serve as judges, Moyer said. Moyer, who said Ohio has an estimated 333 communities that run mayor’s courts, spoke out against the courts last month, calling them unconstitutional...." More (New Philadelphia Times 06.05.2005).

    Remembering a judge the police didn't like. "The late Judge Bruce Wright once said that he wanted to be remembered as an artist who embraced humanity.
'Our grandfather mentioned that he wanted to be remembered as a poet, saying that the law has not civilized America -- poetry might,' said his grandson Jared, 17, reciting one of Wright's poems at a gathering in his memory yesterday." Judge Bruce Wright was once referred to as "Turn 'Em Loose Bruce" by police officers who objected to his low-bail policies. He also appears to have been unorthodox in having a very "open" chambers. Recalled a law clerk: "The phone would be constantly ringing, with a court officer at the security desk announcing the name of a person here to see the judge...Bruce would remark, 'Never heard of him. Send him right in!'" More (New York Daily News 06.05.2005). And see... Obituary (Amsterdam News 03.31.2005) - Google search results for Judge Wright

    Judge with only one leg to stand on. Literally: she's diabetic and had one of her legs removed recently. Compared with the late Judge Wright, supra, she seems to represent the opposite end of the judicial spectrum in dealing with criminal defendants: "She has a few discreet tattoos, eight Jack Russell terriers and, until recently, no TV at home. She’s thrown the fear of God into a defendant during the same court session that she’s driven most of the room into hysterics with a dry observation about the lameness of a lawbreaker’s excuse...." More (York Daily Record 06.05.2005).

    Woman charged with slander for criticizing courts. "An outspoken women's rights activist pleaded not guilty Saturday to charges of slander for publicly criticizing family court judges, a case that has garnered attention from international human rights groups. A small group of women cloaked head-to-toe in black abayas gathered in the courthouse to support Ghada Jamsheer, 40, who has lobbied for years against the use of Sharia, or Islamic law, in family courts. She said Sharia undermines women's rights...." More (Newsday 06.04.2005).

   Other links.
   -  Sioux Falls man indicted for threatening judge (Sioux Falls Argus 06.05)

    More on removing judges' names from public database. Yesterday we linked to a story about a decision by authorities in Allegheny County, PA, removing judges' names from the internet version of the county real estate database, making it more difficult for the public to use the public information to find the judges' home addresses. We supported the idea, but not all do. Some critics say that the county's action "undermines access to public records and sets a risky precedent...'Where do you draw the line?' asked Rebecca Daugherty, director of the Freedom of Information Center for the national Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.'" More (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 06.04.2005). Comment. Perhaps "the public" doesn't have a strong interest in instant, online access to all types of public information. Years ago in Minnesota one could call up the DMV & find out the name and address of the licensee of any automobile if you had the license number. It developed that a serial rapist/killer had been spotting desirable victims in their cars, getting their license numbers, then calling and finding out their home addresses. Now one has to go to the DMV in person and sign one's name in order to obtain this info -- and appropriately so.

   Other links.

    Judge speaks out about fake resignation. "[One day in] early August [2004], [Duval County Circuit] Judge [Sharon] Tanner was at her desk when she learned John Knight was holding a local attorney hostage and was threatening to blow up the Riverplace Tower. His only demand, he wanted her to resign. 'My knees buckled. I was stunned, just stunned.' ...[A short time] later she was on live television reading a script handed to her by police dictated by Knight. 'It was very humiliating. I felt like I was giving in to the demands of a terrorist, which I didn't like, but I didn't have a choice.'" More (First Coast News 06.03.2005). Comment. S.C. Markoff, in a speech titled Let's Talk About Lying at Woodbury University in October of 2004, identified ten types of lying, one being "Lies under duress/self defense," stating that "anything so promised or agreed to has no legal force or effect and the law doesn't consider such [a lie] a bad thing." Markoff gave as an example Judge Tanner's "lie."

    Do some Mexican judges have ties to drug cartel? "The Mexican government suspects some judges may be 'influenced' by suspects -- apparently members of the Sinaloa drug cartel -- and may be giving them favorable treatment, presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Friday. Aguilar's comments came one day after a federal district judge dismissed use-of-illicit-funds charges against the son of escaped drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman. Prosecutors said the judge has a history of rulings in favor of Guzman's Sinaloa cartel...." More (San Diego Union-Tribune 06.03.2005). Comment. Say it isn't so....

    Retired state supreme court judge's pay - $425 per hour. "A retired [New Jersey] Supreme Court justice will be paid $425 per hour in an open-ended contract to help fix unchecked and questionable spending at the state University of Medicine and Dentistry. Word of the contract and its unspecified hours bewildered state lawmakers from both parties who were hearing testimony about the foggy finances at the university at a meeting of the Assembly health committee...." More (New Brunswick Courier Post 06.03.2005).

    Texas C.J. denies threatening legislator over pay bill. "Texans will be relieved to know that the chief justice of the state's Supreme Court is not going around threatening legislators who blocked a pay raise for him and other judges. Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, who helped kill a judicial pay-raise bill near the end of the legislative session, accused Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of doing just that...." More (Houston Chronicle 06.03.2005).

    Judge charged with using sex device in court is sued. "More legal troubles for a former Creek County judge accused of using a sexual device in court. Judge Donald Thompson now faces two separate federal lawsuits from two former employees...." More (KOTV 06.03.2005). Comment. In case you missed the story last summer, here's a link to one of the reports. (Smoking Gun - archives).

    Another group launches a judicial nominations blog. "The National Women's Law Center today launched a blog,, which will focus on the ongoing battles over judicial nominations - including a nomination for a possible Supreme Court vacancy...." More (CivilRights.Org - press release). Comment. We'll be seeing more of these from many different perspectives.

    Making it less easy to find judges' homes. "Next time you want to find out the value of the home of a member of the local, state or federal judiciary who lives in Allegheny County, be prepared to employ shoe leather instead of your fingertips. That's because the names of more than 100 judges were removed this week from the county's real estate Web site, so it is no longer possible to search for their properties by name...." More (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06.03.2005). Comment. Also, all court personnel ought to be instructed never to give a judge's home address or personal phone number to anyone who calls asking for it.

    Traffic-ticket-fixing ex-judge censured by conduct commission. "The [California judicial conduct]] commission, like the special masters, found [the former judge, William Danser] engaged in willful misconduct 32 times, in violation of judicial canons...Most of the charges were related to fixing traffic tickets for friends and people he admired, including professional sports players and team officials...." More (San Jose Mercury-News 06.03.2005).

    'Gentleman Judge' retires. "'Everyone loves him without exception, whether you're an attorney or a victim or an accused or a civil litigant,' Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere said. 'He's very patient. He's fair. And I want to be just like him.'" His name is Raymond J. Kane, Jr., a Howard County (MD) circuit judge. More (Baltimore Sun 06.03.2005). Comment. A judge, by definition, ought to be court-eous. Some are more so than others. For someone to say he "wants to be just like" a judge is high praise.

    Ethics & part-time judges. "The [Texas] Commission on Judicial Conduct is looking into allegations Donna Municipal Judge Javier Garza may have violated judicial ethics by taking a position as head of the Donna school district's security...Holding the dual-position since before Donna named its newest superintendent, Judge Garza maintains he never put his ethical judgement on the line -- even after having to arraign students in the same district where he works...." More (KGBT-4 TV Harlingen, TX 06.02.2005).

   Other links,
   -  In the old records of the Belfast courts (IrelandClick 06.03)
   -  Bill would raise NY judges 18.6% (Buffalo Business First 06.03)
   -  Armed man attacks judge in Delhi court (Mid-Day.Com 06.03)

    Bill Rehnquist is 'just-plain folks.' "William Rehnquist is a man of simple pleasures. He enjoys playing poker, a rare cheeseburger washed down with a beer, a good book, a movie. And he loves competition, from charades to tennis to trivia...." More (Guardian Unlimited 06.02.2005). Comment. Swedes, of which the Chief is one, seem to like their cheeseburgers rare, washed down with beer. Norwegians like their burgers without cheese, well-done, washed down with a fine Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau.

    The scandalous past of Bill Rehnquist! Well, of one of his ancestors. As the Chief put it in a speech to the Swedish Colonial Society at its annual luncheon, at the Union League in Philadelphia on 04.09.2001, "[one of his] Swedish the 17th century was executed for having embezzled funds from an estate for which he was the steward...." More. I point no finger. I believe it is good for a man or woman of justice to have some personal experience, even vicarious, with wrongdoing. Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd wrote, "Fill the seats of justice with good [people], not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is...." I was delighted, not ashamed, when I unearthed the old news story detailing that in the summer of 1916 my dad's maternal grandfather, 69-year-old C.J. Myhre, a Norwegian immigrant shoe man, was caught running a blind pig in his son's barber shop in Austin, MN. But I was saddened when I learned that the stress of the arrest and the proceedings leading to his pleading guilty triggered a fatal heart attack. Generalizing from the particulars, one might say that the difference between Swedes and Norwegians back then was that Swedes executed people caught embezzling whereas Norwegians caught selling booze felt so guilty they died.

    Blind tiger, blind pig - same thing. They both refer to "an illegal drinking establishment." As stated at WordOrigins.Org: "The terms apparently arose from the fact that it was illegal in many areas to sell alcohol by the drink or because the term was used to avoid licensing fees. Proprietors of drinking establishments would advertise animal curiosities and give customers who paid to see the animals a 'complimentary' drink. Often, there were no actual animals to be displayed and it was a thin facade that law enforcement officials winked at."

    Meet me at Judge Burger's Bar 'N' Grill? "Appetizers are opening arguments. Combinations are called plea bargains. Salads and soups - listed as guilt-free - are acquittals. The menu reads like a court document, which is only appropriate. The restaurant is called Judge Crater's...The name of the tavern comes from a legendary New York judge who disappeared in 1930 and has been missing since. According to reports, he took with him a substantial amount of money but seemed to have no reason to flee...." More (Huntsville Times 06.02.2005).

    Best & worst judicial systems in Asia. "Hong Kong and Singapore have the best judicial systems in Asia, while those of Indonesia and Vietnam suffer the worst, according to a survey of expatriate business executives working in the region released on Thursday...." More (Channel News Asia 06.02.2005).

    Annual courthouse rite - the banding of the falcons. "Dennis, Greg and Wayne screeched loudly and squirmed as they were introduced to a group of people Wednesday at the Racine County Courthouse...The three male peregrine falcons that are cotton ball fluffy, white, gray and black were born on May 8, making them approximately 3 weeks old, said Wayne Johnson, program manager. The baby falcons were brought from the courthouse roof to be banded, which makes sure that wherever they travel someone will be able to tell they're from Wisconsin...." More (Racine Journal-Times 06.02.2005). Comment. Sort of like national identity cards? The thing is, you can always tell Wisconsinites by their heads of cheese.

    P.D. sends letter to clients about judge's problems. "The Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office has sent letters to about 600 clients advising them of recent reports that Circuit Judge Brandt Downey has been accused of sexual harassment and accessing pornography with his office computer...[The Public Defender said,] 'My real concern is if something more significant happens down the road like removal (from the bench)...the clients would come back alleging we were ineffective for not letting them know what was out there.'" More (St. Petersburgh Times 06.02.2005).

    Black judge lauded. "Judge [Bruce] Wright...could razzle and dazzle you inside and outside the courtroom. His mastery of language and his quick wit elevated him over his judicial peers and provoked great resentment from his judicial bosses, who looked like mental midgets relative to his judicial acumen. Kudos have to be given to Percy Sutton for encouraging the late Mayor John Lindsay to appoint Judge Wright to the bench. No other mayor has made a similar appointment. Sadly, the judiciary is still whiter than the fire department under Mayor Michael Bloomberg...." More (Amsterdam News 06.02.2005).

    The theory and practice of jambalaya judging. "After the volunteers filled the 12 bowls with the rice, Gremillion and the other judges sat down for the final judging. Judges tasted a small sample and recorded their scores on tabulation sheets. Plates of fruit and cheese were available to help cleanse the palate between each entry. Bottles of chilled wines also help the judges remove the flavor of each entry, Waguespack said...." More (Baton Rouge Advocate 06.02.2005). Comment. I wonder if there are common law judging equivalents to the palate-cleansing techniques used in jambalaya judging. Any thoughts?

    Tribal judge charged with drug offenses. "More troublesome to [the chief judge] was [Judge] Munnell-Noah's behavior in court, where she was beginning to impose grossly disproportionate sentences, both too light and too harsh, he said. [He] said he was deeply troubled when two of Munnell-Noah's relatives were brought into her court -- an obvious conflict of interest...." More (Casper Star-Tribune 06.02.2005).

    Woman on trial for criticizing judges. "The Bahraini government should drop charges against a leading women's rights activist who goes on trial Saturday for publicly criticizing family court judges, Human Rights Watch said today...." More (Reuters AlertNet 06.02.2005).

    Heading for the border and the 'Love Judge.' "Kentucky requires no waiting period to get married, and [it costs only] $34.50 for the license. The ease of marrying here is one of the reasons Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble has been dubbed the Love Judge. His county is on the Tennessee border. It costs more than $90 for a license in Tennessee, if the couple opts out of premarital counseling...." Since he was elected in 1994 the judge has performed 3,380 weddings. More (Advocate Messener 06.01.2005). Comment. Minnesota Gov. No-new-taxes Tim Pawlenty, take note: there's revenue for the taking if you can somehow make Minnesota the "Marriage Mecca of the Midwest."

    Former judicial secretary charged with drug offense. "A criminal charge has been filed against a former secretary [Dawn Lukasik] who was at the center of a judicial scandal...Lukasik worked last year for former Judge Steve Lile. Lile resigned from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in February...[while] under investigation for allowing Lukasik to be a ghost employee and using court funds to pay for things for her...." More (KOKH25.Com 06.01.2005). Comment. For more on the topic of judicial (and legal) secretaries, click here.

    Did studying Freud cause Argentine judge to lose job? "Judge Nestor Narizano was found guilty after it was discovered that he was attending a psychology university during the time he was supposed to be working...[The judge says,] "I was fired because I read two hours of Freud each day. I only did this to understand better the mind of the criminals...." More (Ananova 06.01.2005).

    Defendant leaps barrier to attack judge. "Just as the judge was about to set bail at $10,000, Connelly leaped over a 4-foot-high partition at the Douglas County Correctional Center courtroom and started swinging at the judge. [The judge] did not suffer any major injuries...Cpl. Eugene Shaeffer...was wearing a body alarm that went off when he jumped to follow Connelly. That alarm alerted other officers to the courtroom. It's just one of the precautions in place at the...courtroom..." More (TheOmahaChannel 06.01.2005).

    Church or jail - your choice. "A...judge has been offering some drug and alcohol offenders the option of attending worship services instead of going to jail or rehab, a practice some say violates the Constitution's separation of church and state...." More (Cincinnati Enquirer 06.01.2005). Comment. Yesterday we read about the diet-activist judge and the drug-activist judge -- today it's the church-activist judge. We wonder if those who decry "activist" judges see anything wrong with any of these types of activism.

    Judicial commission to investigate sleeping judge. "Sleeping Judge Ian Dodd has been ordered to explain himself before a powerful Judicial Commission that could lead to his sacking over the way he conducted a rape trial...." More (Daily Telegraph 06.01.2005). Prior stories.

    Requiring judges to clock in is 'utter madness.' "'You want judges to clock in, it's insane -- I regard that as a damn impertinence,' said Judge [Dennis] Davis [of a proposal pending in South Africa's Parliament]. 'I don't work from 8 to 5 -- I'm there until 9 or 10 o'clock. Why do I need to be given a charter of when I should be in and when I should be out? Do I need to ask my judge president permission to go and work at home?'" More (Independent Online 05.31.2005).

    Judicial bribery trial begins in earnest. Attorney Paul Minor is accused in federal court of paying bribes to three Mississippi state court judges, including a state supreme court judge. "The defense doesn't deny that Minor gave the judges campaign contributions and loans, or even that state campaign finance laws may have been violated [but] maintain[s] that Minor expected nothing in return for his money and the judges gave him no special treatment...." More (Sun Herald 05.31.2005).

    Pataki's appointments haven't pushed top court to right. "Having a majority of Republican appointees on New York's highest court has not meant more wins for district attorneys. In fact, while prosecutors still prevail most of the time, criminal defendants lately are succeeding at a better rate than a few years ago by some measures, according to an analysis of court records...." More (Star-Gazette 05.31.2005).

    Venezuela warns U.S. over judge's cancelled visa. "Venezuela may stop allowing visits by American officials after US immigration authorities cancelled the tourist visa of the Venezuelan Supreme Court president, the country’s vice president said...." More (NZ Herald 05.31.2005).

    Pay bill for judges fails in Texas. "On the final day of the 2005 legislative session...lawmakers vainly tried to resuscitate a measure that would have boosted their own retirement benefits. The players involved insisted that the measure, which was designed to increase the pay for the state's judges, was vital to keep qualified judges on the bench and sidestepped suggestions that the last-ditch effort might appear unseemly...." More (Fort Worth Star-Telegram 05.31.2005).

    Judge orders teen bully to slim down. "An Italian judge has found a teenage boy guilty of vandalism, slander and disturbing the peace -- but instead of jail time, he ordered the 100 kg (220 lb) "bully" to slim down...." More (Reuters AlertNet 05.31.2005). Comment. Yet another diet-activist judge?

    Confederate monument placed on court lawn without protest. "About two dozen people showed up for the dedication of a Confederate monument on the Chickasaw County courthouse lawn and the ceremony took place without a protest...." More (Sun Herald 05.30.2005).

    Court gets satellite technology. "Witnesses will be able to testify from any country in the world through live satellite links, and judges and attorneys will be equipped with microphones to communicate with witnesses through a portable camera placed on top of a television...." More (NW Indiana Times 05.31.2005).

    'Living treasure' retires after long court career. "In January 1966, manual typewriters, carbon copies, wet-ink copiers and processing passports were the order of the day for Walter A.Y.H. Chinn, newly appointed chief clerk of the U.S. District Court....Thirty-nine years later, the youngest-ever clerk of court -- appointed at age 28 -- is now the most senior clerk of court in the federal court system, and he says it is time to move on...." More (Honolulu Star-Bulletin 05.31.2005).

    People's Court -- Assumption of risk of unfair editing? "A Blackpool landlady claims her reputation is in tatters after she appeared in the dock of TV's People's Court....A spokesman for Scottish Television...said those taking part were made well aware of what could happen before they appeared...." More (Blackpool Today 05.31.2005).

    Judge's anti-drug campaign leads him to his own daughter. "'Traffic' -- (2000) Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle. While a judge’s anti-drug campaign leads him to his own daughter, a DEA agent targets a trafficker’s wife, and a policeman fights corruption. 8 p.m. on NBC." More (TV listings, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette 05.31.2005). Comment. That's a risk a drug-activist judge assumes?

   Insider: Bush will name O'Connor to replace Rehnquist. It's Decoration Day, not April Fools Day, but there aren't many news stories today that fit the idiosyncratic parameters of our blog, so, what the heck, let's try start a rumor. This much we can say: until the White House denies the rumor, we're running with it.

    Courthouse mystery man. "And so it happens that Gene Sehrt -- or a man who the clerk of circuit court and his staff believe is Gene Sehrt -- shows up frequently in the very office where he could easily claim...$617,000 but leaves every time without even asking for it. 'We have our regular, day-to-day stuff, and then there's Gene,' Clerk of Circuit Court John Barrett said. 'He is an interesting diversion.'...Most times...the man delves into a cardboard box, permanently set aside for him, containing 30 years of court records about Sehrt's case, which is among the longest-running in Milwaukee County Circuit Court history. Sometimes the man stops by Barrett's office to talk, or joke, or to hand off the written request Barrett requires when this man, who Barrett says 'speaks kind of circularly,' wants a record that isn't there. The records always have to do with Sehrt..." More (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 05.30.2005). Comment. Thanks to this story, there may be a number of "Gene Sehrt's" showing up, claiming the money.

    Do judicial law clerks 'rule'? "The recent release of Justice Harry A. Blackmun's private Supreme Court case files has starkly illuminated an embarrassing problem that previously was discussed only in whispers among court insiders and aficionados: the degree to which young law clerks, most of them just two years out of law school, make extensive, highly substantive and arguably inappropriate contributions to the decisions issued in their bosses' names...." From a commentary by David Garrow, Pultizer-Prize-winning author of Bearing the Cross, a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. More (LA Times  05.29.2005). Comment. The controversy regarding the varying roles of personal law clerks at the Court is not exactly new. Justice Robert H. Jackson, in The Supreme Court in the American System of Government (1955), wrote, "[T]he Senate no longer need bother about confirmation of Justices but ought to confirm the appointment of law clerks."

    The Terminator's bi-partisan judiciary. "California Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger's judicial appointments have stood in striking contrast to the partisan tilt of most governors. According to his office, he has appointed 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats and seven with no stated party affiliation...." More (San Francisco Chronicle 05.29.2005).

    Computer 'glitches' keep arrestees in jail too long. "The Adult Information System, or AIS, which has cost $3 million in federal grant money, was designed to make book-in and law enforcement work more efficient. Someday it might do that. Instead, the system's launch caused a staggering backlog of defendants waiting for book-in...In addition, lists of new inmates produced by the county's old mainframe could no longer be produced, wreaking havoc with court officials' ability to know who was in jail and to set inmates' court dates...." More (Dallas Morning News 05.29.2005). And see Case was dismissed, but she wasn't - Elizabeth Davis lost her job, apartment before county realized she was still in jail.

    Morgan Probate Judge Bobby Day completes legal course. "Morgan County Probate Judge Bobby Day received a certificate of achievement recently for completion of a law course through The University of Alabama School of Law...." More (DeCatur Daily 05.29.2005).

    Judicial strategy. "'There's a belief among attorneys that a judge who thinks one side is likely to win will rule in favor of the other on evidentiary and procedural motions. That's to reduce the likelihood that the case will be reversed due to a technical error, said University of Washington Law School professor Robert Aronson. But decisions like that have been known to backfire,' he said. The trial judge could be swayed if enough unfavorable evidence gets in, including some that should have been excluded...." From a profile of Judge John Bridges of the Chelan County Superior Court in Wenatchee, WA, who is hearing the GOP's challenge to the election of the Democrat as Governor. More (Seattle Times 05.29.2005).

    Even tolerant, forgiving Swedes are upset with judge. We've linked twice to stories about the Swedish Supreme Court Judge,Leif Thorsson, 59, who admitted paying a 20-year-old man for sex but who was allowed to remain on the bench. More and more. "The affair has gripped the Scandinavian country, with opinion polls showing that a majority of Swedes believe Mr Thorsson should retire. The furore was compounded by the head of the supreme court, Bo Svensson, who joked to a Swedish daily newspaper that the judge's behaviour could be an 'advantage.' 'One could say that he has deeper knowledge of the subject,' he said. He later regretted his comment...." More (The Guardian UK 05.28.2005).

    This judge earns $25 million a year. "Judge Judith Sheindlin is best known for her brusque handling of small-claims cases...But the petite Brooklyn native deserves equal renown for her mastery of the Nielsen ratings: Judge Judy has been the most-watched court show for 452 straight weeks—ever since its 1996 debut. Sheindlin's ratings are so high, in fact, that her salary for the show currently stands at $25 million per year...." More (Slate 05.27.2005). Comment. This is a good piece that surveys the genre, including earlier "court" shows, and helps explain why people like her style of "justice."

    Did R.I. Chief Justice 'forfeit' job? - colleagues to decide. "Providence lawyer Keven A. McKenna claims [the Chief, Frank J.] Williams forfeited the state's top judicial job when he joined the federal panel, which is to hear appeals from suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He claims Williams violated a state constitutional ban on judges accepting appointments from other governments...." The Providence Journal has a good discussion of the ethical and practical problems of appellate judges sitting in judgment on a case involving a colleague, including the views of Harvard Law School Prof. Andrew L. Kaufman. "When the suit was filed, Williams said, 'We researched the issue thoroughly prior to my accepting the appointment.' McKenna questioned whether 'we' included other justices. The court said some justices had seen a staff lawyer's memo to Williams about the matter, but they felt they could still be impartial...." More. Comment. Prof. Kaufman, Cardozo's biographer, is one of the professors I wrote about in 1996 in a piece I entitled Advice to a Recent Harvard Law Grad.

    Cf., magistrate forfeited county road job. "A man who claims he was wrongly stripped of his county road job after his election as a magistrate lost another round Friday in the Kentucky Court of Appeals...." More (WKYT.Com 05.27.2005).

    American Legion commander rules courthouse flags okay. "Flags at the Pulaski County Courthouse are being displayed properly, according to the Missouri commander of the American Legion...." More (Richland Mirror 05.27.2005).

    The courthouse dogs. "[T]wo specially trained service dogs -- Jeeter, a moonlighter, and Ellie, a full-timer -- cruise the hallways or waiting rooms, enter a courtroom or visit with victims" in the King County Washington Courthouse. "The two have been part of drug-court graduation ceremonies, eased the tension in dozens of corridors and courtrooms, and helped scores of victimized children...." More (Lansing State Journal 05.28.2005). Comment. But what happens if the dogs wag their tails or otherwise show affection for -- or, worse, snarl at -- a murder defendant or a person charged with child abuse? Will a cautionary instruction cure any error? And we're a little concerned about Ellie's propensity for spontaneously doing tricks.

    What's a 'Wacky Courthouse'? "Middle America is a hub of [water park] innovation, with established parks debuting bigger, bolder attractions each year...Indoor water parks are ultra-hot...Deep River cultivates a more resort-like atmosphere...The attractions include a 1,300-foot river rigged with water jets and a huge tipping bucket, and a high-speed dueling cannon bowl ride that spins guests into a down-the-drain tizzy. An interactive 'Wacky Courthouse' playground will be installed later this summer...." More (Northwest Indiana Times 05.28.2005). Comment. In this era of cuts to judicial entertainment budgets, the "wacky courthouse" playground should appeal to cash-strapped judicial groups looking for a good, clean, inexpensive, refreshing, recreative alternative to the typical judges' retreats that are held at resorts, etc., sometimes at considerable expense to taxpayers.

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